With each New Year, those indulgent holiday treats that bombarded us online all November and December long vaporize and are replaced with a barrage of green drinks, (sometimes extreme) diet plans and the call for lofty resolutions to be healthy, get fit and ultimately, to lose weight.
Did you know more than 80% of all New Year resolutions are abandoned by February? Maybe it’s because once everyone is signed up for their new diet plan, gym membership and juice cleanse, the Valentine’s Day treats begin to pop up in social media and simply prove too tempting.
Just one chocolate (cookie, cake, etc.) won’t hurt.
Well, I have some great news for you! That is actually true. Just one *whatever* won’t wreck your health or your waistline. It is not the occasional treat that sets anyone on a path of being unhealthy and/or overweight. It is not even the daily dessert that wrecks health.
So, how is that true when mostly what we see in the media (on- and off-line) are diet plans that tend to lean toward restriction?
Can it really be so simple that all you need to do is eat? Is it possible you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on books and journals and health coaches?? Indeed, my friends, it IS that simple!
This year, I want to shed some light on just how simple crafting the life you really want can be, and what better way to start than with that *one thing* that’s on (almost) everyone’s mind with the start of the New Year: WEIGHT.
Let’s take some science, some common sense and some personal experiences and put this weight loss monster in perspective once and for all. Then, next year, we can have a totally different conversation. Perhaps one that includes how amazing we feel for having shunned the gimmicks and how we are embracing life and taking control of what goes into our mouths once and for all, without a shred of guilt, shame or judgment.
Multiple influences govern an individual’s weight.
On a very basic level, weight is influenced by “calories in versus calories out”. It does, in fact, matter how much you eat to a degree. But weight loss or management is not as simple as eating fewer calories and automatically losing weight. I mean, I’ve even told you why counting calories makes you gain weight in certain circumstances (and what to do about it). Alternatively, for those of you who DO count calories and find it useful, I shared some info on how to slash unnecessary calories from your diet. (Different info for different folks because everyone is unique and what works for one of us might be disastrous for another.)
But, again, it’s not ALL about calories when it comes to losing weight. Other factors, such as genetics, hormones, physical activity, stress, sleep and even the type foods we eat, play a role in the complex equation of weight loss. So, if you make a New Year’s resolution to cut calories, ban sugar (or carbs, or any other specific foods) and find yourself craving all the foods you banned before that first week of the New Year is over, consider the following reasons why you don’t need a New Year’s resolution to get your weight under control and manage your health. (Here’s a tip sheet on how to control cravings on a special diet!)
You Don’t Need a New Year’s Resolution to Lose Weight
Four great reasons you really don’t need a New Year’s Resolution to achieve a healthy weight:
Giving yourself the freedom to eat puts you in control and de-stigmatizes dessert.
No one likes to be told what to do. For some, being told what to do makes them want to do the opposite. Putting “can’t have” in front of a food (or food group) can have the same effect. Extreme restriction rarely works, and when it does, you can bet it is not long-lasting. Besides, for those of us with medical reasons (like celiac disease and other autoimmune diseases) for avoiding certain foods, the last thing we need is more restriction. Food is delicious, necessary to life and shouldn’t be a source of fear or guilt.
Speaking of the guilt factor, what is the deal anyway? Why do you feel bad for eating a treat when you really want it? I can understand why eating a box of cupcakes or an entire cake by yourself would lead to some negative feelings, but a single treat? Nonsense! No one has the right to judge any of us as we are. Don’t allow that in your life. Embrace that cupcake! (or fries, or chocolate bar or whatever treat you love that meets your dietary guidelines). Simply do it in moderation. And if you want some support in that journey, you know where to find me on social, via email or here in comments. If you know me, you know I run a judgment-free zone here for everyone.
Before anyone gets up in arms over this, I am NOT telling you to over-do it on sugar. I am telling you that if you find yourself wanting a treat, just have a reasonable portion, enjoy it and move on. And if you’re interested, my diet is 90% whole foods, 10% champagne (haha) – proof on my Instagram feed! ;-) See below, under the next point for more on what I eat (seriously).
By abandoning “good” and “bad” labels everything becomes “just food”.
Food is food. Some foods, like broccoli, are viewed as “healthy” because they have a particular nutritional profile, while other foods, such as an ice cream sundae may be viewed as “unhealthy” because of the high sugar content, simple carbohydrates, etc. We talk about foods like that sundae as having “empty calories”. In other words, sugar-laden foods provide calories but little nutrition. That is fact.
It is also fact that if we make those foods the mainstay of our diet, we will no doubt be unhealthy, have excess weight and probably feel yucky. But if we have a small treat regularly, we aren’t likely to suffer extreme health issues. We are likely to experience more joy, a more relaxed attitude toward food in general and maybe even effortlessly drop a few pounds.
Now we should qualify some terms: First, by “small” I mean a normal size, not a super-duper size or giant size treat. A cookie, a thin slice of pie or cake, an ounce of chocolate, etc. If anything you eat can be described as a “slab”, “bucket” or “super size”, it’s probably more than any of us should be eating. ;-)
By “regularly”, that can mean weekly, every other day, or even daily, depending on what you’re eating, what you’re doing in terms of exercise, etc. A square of dark chocolate every day isn’t going to be a negative if your diet is comprised mainly of whole, real foods. The occasional glass of wine is fine, the daily glass is fine, but if you’re knocking out a bottle every other day, you may want to consider altering your habits. Digging into a pint of ice cream every evening? Not a good idea. A small scoop every other day? Probably no biggie. And keep in mind, no one (myself included) is an expert on any individual’s portion size on any food. We have dietary guidelines to follow that are based on research, but let me use myself as a personal example of how guidelines should be used as just that and not the gospel.
I eat a 90% whole foods diet made up of a LOT of vegetables. There really aren’t any veggies I don’t love, so for me, it’s relatively easy to fit those into my diet and enjoy it. I far exceed the recommended daily servings, too. Most of the time I eat grain-free, by default. It just happens to be the case that I don’t really care for a lot of breads, I’m not crazy about sweets and my diet just seems to work out that way. BUT, if I go without some type of complex carb and my carb count drops too low (under 35-40 grams per day), I get very weak and feel horrible. My remedy is that I eat a lot of sweet potatoes (sometimes 3 per week) to make up the carbs in my diet. I don’t count macros (or calories or anything else outside of watching sugar grams just to be aware), but I can feel when my carb count was too low on any given day. My point is: get to know your body, what it needs (not craves, needs) and the foods that work best for you. If you pay close attention, you’ll soon realize the best combination of foods for your unique body type. (You won’t find that info in any book, either, no matter what someone tells you.)
If you eat what you love, you will eat less overall.
When nothing is off limits, cravings “magically” disappear. Just tell yourself, I can eat whatever I want whenever I want it. It’s that simple. What I find happens in most cases when people I help with overcoming food issues do this is that for about three days they totally pig out. But after that third day, they suddenly say they just don’t really feel all that hungry and they don’t want anything in particular.
Is it magic? No. It is that foods previously considered “off limits” because they are “bad” are destigmatized. If you feel zero guilt or shame for having a cookie, you just eat the cookie, move on and go about life’s business. There are no hours of agonizing over the fact that you ate a cookie. Eat what you really want, when you really want it and you will realize a miraculous transformation in how you think about food.
Life is supposed to be joyful and make you feel good!
Our goal here is to create the life of our dreams! Punishing ourselves with food is not paving an inviting path to reach that goal. So, keep in mind, this is not about one day, one month or even this one new year. This is about your LIFE. We all hope ours lasts a good long time, so why not act like it? Food is such a huge part of being alive that we must get it in perspective and remove the negative feelings from it. Food is our sustenance. Food is tied to memories. Food is good! And all of those things are OK. (If anyone tells you otherwise, I’m willing to wager they’re struggling with food issues.)
So, there you have it, a few reason why you really do not need a resolution to lose weight. Instead of setting a nearly unattainable goal that makes you miserable and leaves your tummy rumbly, save your resolutions for positive actions like paying better attention to non-food related health points.
For example, you might:
- Make it a point to commit yourself to hydrating your body properly every day
- Focus on getting enough sleep each night
- Make time every day for yourself to set your intentions for the day (or to reflect on the day you had, or both!)
- Carve out 30 minutes each day to exercise (dance, take a walk, do yoga, go to the gym, stretch, ride your bike, whatever you love doing)
- Take time with your family every day to have fun together (play a board game, read together, work a crossword puzzle, put a jigsaw puzzle together, take a family walk, etc.)
Taking the focus off the number on the scale puts your mind in a different place. You suddenly worry less about what you’re not eating (or in your mind what you can’t eat) and feel much less restricted. And by engaging in new activities (instead of veg’ing out on the sofa in front of the TV), you reprogram your mind and your body to behave differently. Food becomes secondary in terms of your daily activities when you make non-food events part of your daily routine.
I hope these tips help you on your journey to making the New Year your best year yet – unrestricted, full of JOY and being truly happy with your life!